Gryphon Audio Pendragon Four Chassis Loudspeaker System

An audiophile seeking what is better…
I am not really a professional reviewer of audio components. Actually, I am
just like any other audiophile in the hunt of a better audio component. I
have my doors open to any audio distributor who believes that his
represented audio component is the better one. I told them that the main
rule of the game is that I be the final judge with the last say since it is
my wallet. All agreed and I have almost every major distributor of the
finest audio components come my way. So, what I have written here is the
journey to a decision.

A Journey to a Decision…
It’s never easy to choose the right loudspeaker given a particular space and
complimentary audio components. Many who have followed my previous write up
here, knew of my current resident amplifiers, pre amplifiers, source and the
cables that connect them all. The system connected here is all mainly Vitus
Masterpieces and cables mainly from Skogrand (Markarian /Beethovan model)
and Vertere Audio (Pulse Hand-Build model). But there are other combinations
of cables involved here too. The sources are mainly analogue with the
TechDas Air Force One turntable together with Vertere Reference Tonearm and
ZYX Omega Gold cartridge. The digital helm is by the Vitus Masterpiece Dac
MPD-201 and partnered with the Aurender W20.

I visited the Munich Hi End show for the purpose of searching what is the
better and the best loudspeaker system out there. That trip opened my ears
quite a bit. I have short listed a few contenders. I have to say, all these
contenders sound great and my mind was imagining the rest. The trip caused
me to think and (actually) believed that the available technologies and
parts that are available allow each designer to build something that is to
him or her how music supposed to be heard. I love to talk to designers and
hear their likings in life. I find that one’s life(style) can be summed up
with his or her music (or none at all). Hence, my experience (not
conclusive) leads me to believe that an “independent” designer with a free
hand, like an artist (some), will try to build something he or she believes
in and love. Thus, the creation is the designer’s. If I can “click” well
musically with the man or woman behind that product then that may be short
listed for the buy. I was treated well by a number of designers at the show.
Everyone is friendly and more than happy to share their ideas. In a word,
“fun” is all I gathered there.

The Decision is…
Based on my listening preference and my ratio of price to performance
obtained from the contenders, my decision slides to the main spot light to
write. The Gryphon Audio Pendragon Loudspeaker system is my current
reference loudspeaker. I must admit that I do not have much experience with
four chassis loudspeaker system. I embarked to go into such system with a
belief that the flexibility of tuning the system to couple with my room and
all it’s modes is worth the trouble. I am blessed to have great help in the
education of the necessary procedure of setting up such system and in the
actual work from Rave Audio’s Mr.Han (the local Gryphon Audio distributor),
Ben Chia (Absolute Sound), Touraj Moghaddam (Vertere Audio), Dietrich
(Acoustical System, Germany) and Thomas (Syntax at Audiogon). To simplify
the lesson learnt, the four chassis must be placed at an arch (as per in the
manual). The bass tower must be treated with care as a full range speaker
and that the treble (ribbon) tower must have enough space from the front
wall in order to capture what I am describing below.

Gryphon Audio’s presence into my audio room…
Almost 2 years ago, I was presented with my first Gryphon products. I
believe the first to come into my system was the Colosseum stereo amplifier.
I was impressed with it, especially when running at class A mode, as it
reminded me of my old favorite, the Mark Levinson 20.6 mono amplifiers. I
decided to wait for the launch of the Mephisto amplifier before any serious
decision to be made. Within a few months, the first Gryphon Mephisto stereo
amplifier in Malaysia, landed in my system and ownership. Then, a few of my
audiophile friends understood and appreciated my decision, thus decided to
invest for their musical gain. To me, the Gryphon Audio represent certain
quality that propelled me further (and crazier) into the audio hobby.
The same year I bought the Gryphon Mephisto stereo amplifier, Mr. Flemming
E. Rasmussen was on an Asian tour and by some good fortune, he visited me.
He listened to my then audio system with only one component from Gryphon
Audio. He was extremely generous with his comment on the performance of my
then audio system. I remember the comment centered around the word
“presence” of the musical presentation. He added that not that many audio
system in the world that he visited command such “presence” in the
presentation (as I have said, he is generous). That comment brought some
smile but also have me thinking what is that “presence”. In an attempt to
understand “presence”, I was contemplating to upgrade my then audio system
with Gryphon Pandora pre amplifier, instead I opted for the Mephisto Solo
(mono) amplifiers. Therefore, there was that opening for the pre amplifier
and phono stage. As some would have guessed, that is where and when the
Vitus Audio’s Masterpieces came for the challenge.
Even though I was treated with an audio system of great musical playback
capability, my mind still seek what can be better; is there more in
“presence”?

Presence…equal, can play loud and…?
When Flemming was at my place, I did play certain and suitable tracks at
high volume (peak above 100dB). He was nodding his head in agreement with
the tunes and shared to me that he does listen to music loud too, at certain
times. I have always wanted my loudspeaker system being able to play loud
without any loss of detail, control, finesse, energy, dynamic and
musicality. There, the transient of the energy and all nuances of textures
must be cleanly and clearly delineated. Ultimately, nothing must be lost at
any volume level. First pick is an old vinyl title from Reference Recording,
Blazing Redheads’ Crazed Women (RR-41), to check out how the system hold up
at peak volume around 100dB with multiple musical instruments played at the
same time and space. I would summed up that every instrument at play
maintained its independence, freedom and coherency at sizzling hot tempo.
The pace, rhythm and tempo of the system is so good that the feel of the
music comes at you unhindered. I can hear and feel the free flow of each
instrument at play. The energy of different instrument is clearly portray,
and each in its own space. The last track of side two, “Tiananmen Square”
will have a gong that this system will allow you to experience so low the
frequency and to hear it to the last stop.

Presence…That piano at the back…
My next in play is a Toshiba Direct Cut Pro Use Series vinyl record from
Eiji Kitamura & All Stars’ 30 years in 30 minutes ( Toshiba LF 95012 ) where
I am amazed how the Gryphon Audio Pendragon is able to capture the three
dimensionality of the piano at play in the background amidst the many other
more prominent instruments. At my previous reference loudspeaker system, I
will hear the piano at play but not with such vividness and weight that
constitute the essence of each note clearly play out to its respective stop.
This is my first with my current set up!

Presence…in a space…
Quality Pressing under the light of Chad Kassem produces some of the finest
reissue around and almost always I will play their Living Stereo’
Offenbach-Gaite Parisienne, Boston Pops Orchestra, Fiedler ( LSC-1817 ).
Here, I would like to add that the space and air surrounding each instrument
and the atmosphere of the play in the venue is so much more present with
certain tangible weight compare to most other loudspeaker that I have had
the pleasure. This also add up to the clarity and clear delineation of each
tone played. To my ears, I can more easily follow and enjoy the music being
played, even in the most congested play.

Presence…One Night at…
A few friends who visited me will attest that I love to end our listening
session with the vinyl single of Murray Head’s One Night in Bangkok (RCA
Chess PD-13959). At high volume level, even the best audio system may
suffered in more than a point. The mess that come out is so difficult to
decipher and our brain can easily dismiss all as noise. The Gryphon Audio
Pendragon display great control here that you do not feel the above 100dB.
Many attendees actually ask me to play again and louder. At this (almost)
discotheque level, we can hear distinctly the different musical element at
play. The vocal is clearly separated with his own space from the electronic
music. The same treatment on the background opera singing, music and voices
from all the main “ho hah”. The whole presentation is so control and in
order that is so enjoyable and have you listen to again and again. This is a
good test for any mega audio system and my good testament is that I sent a
few running out to buy a copy of the same vinyl to run their audio system.

Presence…Blue Notes at play…
Play any good recording from the Music Matters’ reissue of the Blue Note
titles and read up the liner notes of that date. If you are able to
understand and feel the comment of the critic of that date as you listen to
that record then I would say that you are hearing that record. The Gryphon
Pendragon allow me a door to the date of the recording session that I am
able to hear the breath taken by the musician(s) before each stroke or blow
or brush on his instrument, and feel the strength of it. In addition, the
air that moves as each movement made by the musician can be experience too.
I believes that the treble ribbon employed in the Pendragon should take the
credit for this. I am a believer of the advantages of ribbons that they are
fast enough to capture the tempo of the musical instrument and the skill or
artistry of the musician. The whole package of the Gryphon Audio Pendragon
involved dynamic drivers too and if they are not in “speed” or in sync with
the ribbon then it will be a failure. That is the game with four chassis
loudspeaker system. After much play with the placement of them, I found out
that strict adherence to the recommended position as per the manual yielded
the best result with coherence approaching two chassis loudspeaker system.
To test this further, I share to you that as the tempo picks up in any of
these fine recordings, the Gryphon Audio Pendragon system is able to carry
you without any hint of any loss of breath (unless the musician(s) does).
The challenge does not stop here, many of times, I notice that the leader of
that date loves to carry you on a musical wave to a great height and then
let you off. Many of loudspeakers will not be able to follow through such a
roller coaster ride as the Gryphon that have the braking system of a formula
one ride.

Presence…what more?
I was advised that ribbons does not and will not sound hard or bright thus
it is also the case that they do not equal the pin point imaging like a
dynamic driver and tweeter. I do agree (in part) of the above assessment in
the case of the Gryphon Audio Pendragon. When I was in the course of finding
the best placement position for them, I found myself comparing the imaging
of the Gryphon Pendragon with my previous reference, the Egglestonwork Ivy
Signature and other two chassis loudspeakers. After much work and help from
friends, I decided to placed the Gryphon Pendragon around the same distance
from the front wall as my previous Egglestonwork, that is 8 feet. I was
seated slightly above 11.5 feet. The bass towers are toe in at the sweet
spot, and the treble towers are toe in less. Here, I manage to obtain the
cleanest and clearest low bass with treble to match thus a tonal balance of
my objective.

Presence…vocal? Let us welcome Ms.Lyn Stanley…
I played Ms. Stanley’s Potion-From the 50’s (A.T. Music LLC 3103) vinyl
album. I find that through the Gryphon Audio Pendragon, this recording
capture the atmosphere of the recording venue and the space between
accompany musicians and their respective musical instrument. I love the
captured (or recorded) energy of each musical instrument throughout. Hearing
this vinyl album through the Gryphon Pendragon find me not missing the
imaging of my previous reference loudspeakers. I am really impressed with
the ability of these loudspeaker in reproducing the tones of the piano. I
can clearly hear the different key being played and the different strength
applied and for how long. The start and stop of each key is so apparent, and
all with the right tonality. It does not stop at the tones, the Gryphon
Audio Pendragon is able to convey the weight of the piano, even in those
difficult and congested passage. I am fooled into believing that an actual
piano is in my audio room. The star lady, Ms. Lyn Stanley’s voice was
captured with flesh and breath. I can vividly imagine her lips pressed
towards the recording mike. I would say that her artistry is capture clearly
here. Comparing with her previous album, “Lost in Romance”, which is another
great audiophile album with much care and effort spent, Ms. Stanley is so
much more confident in her artistry here and more relax to explore the
different styles in portraying the fine selection. Another observation from
this recording is that Ms. Stanley’s vocal is capture in the right balance
with the accompanying musicians. I find that most recordings almost always
give too much prominence to the lead vocalist (which is not wrong) but I
believe that the right balance provides the nearer experience of the actual
session. My hope is that there will more of such great recording.

Presence…Distance…recording mike?
The Gryphon Audio Pendragon is an extreme transparent transducer. Do expect
to hear the different distance between each artist with the recording mike
and all movements made by the artist. Everything recorded will be played
back more vividly here. I hear Ms. Stanley’s voice became more chesty and
breathy as she is nearer to the recording mike and I notice she like to
start each song near to the recoding mike. The shifting of her head and
movement of her lips affect the space her voice occupied in the soundstage,
will be vividly portrayed through these loudspeakers. In comparison with
some other loudspeakers, I only hear a hint of such shift in the space
between the source (vocal) to the recording mike. Most of the times, many
audiophiles may even dismiss such phenomenon as an instability of the
imaging. At first, I have the same conclusion but was later came to the
above deduction as I noticed how densely and palpable the imaging is, even
as it moved. It is an eerie feeling with the hair over my hand stands up.

Presence…totality?
My next pick is another vocal album by Ms.Cecile McLorin Salvant’s “Woman
Child” (Mack Avenue MAC1072LP), where her diverse styling and artistries are
vividly exposed through the Gryphon Audio Pendragon. Here in this recording,
at the track, “Mean to Me”, the vocal floated behind an extremely quiet
background with only the accompanying bass, where to me all are exposed, are
being presented most naturally and in the right balance. This is an area
where smaller or mini monitor speaker usually strive well against the bigger
loudspeaker. The right tonal balance of the Gryphon Audio Pendragon (when
properly calibrated) will play with precision like a mini monitor and with
certain weight that is not necessary more bass but in full(er) bandwidth or
totality.
Is it “totality” that Flemming is seeking in an audio presentation that
meant “presence”?
I believe that his vast experience in audio design and voicing coupled with
his exposure to listening to much reel to reel tapes (I was told he used to
own a sizable collection of original reel to reel tapes) have given him
certain set of parameters that he coined as “presence”. My little experience
with reel to reel tape is that the good tapes and recordings almost always
sound fuller throughout the entire bandwidth. To simplify, the low bass will
go to the extreme low (depends on the capability of the loudspeaker in use),
the mid is weightier and sweeter and the high is filled with energy and
detail, all under tight control. Even with familiar recording, I find the
reel to reel tape version gives me a totally different feel to the
presentation. I hear more into the music and find the music more enticing
and catchy. I found the same (or near) experience with the Gryphon Audio
Pendragon loudspeaker system. Whether the Gryphon Audio Pendragon has given
me the “total” amount of detail buried in a recording or presented me the
“total” experience of a recording as intended by the recording engineer, I
can never give an affirmative at this (or any) moment. I will testify that
it does give me more listening detail, feeling, experience and “bang” for
the music with attributes that have similarity and familiarity to that
playback of reel to reel tapes, than any loudspeaker system that I have had
the pleasure. I believe that “presence” is not a factor or a particular
audiophile point but the “totality” of all the audiophile points and the end
result thereof. If an audio system is able to present the essence, meaning
and intention of the musician(s) or artist(s) at play at that time in that
space, as recorded and intended by the recording engineer, then that audio
system has played out the “presence” of the recorded music.

Conclusion…
The Gryphon Audio team under the light of Flemming have created a
loudspeaker system that allow the listener to hear, feel and experience more
into the music and at the same time, bring forth the education and meaning
of “presence” to an audio system’s playback presentation. I am still amazed
and digesting what I am hearing from these loudspeaker. This is a high
achievement in all audiophiles’ book!